Josh Innes is headed to Nashville. The journey isn’t just about landing a high profile gig and joining 105.9 the Rock, a station that routinely does well. Josh is leaving sports behind to scratch an itch he can’t in our format.
Before Josh Innes, it was Ben & Skin who spurned sports for rock radio. Like Innes, the Dallas duo had a vision for the future of their show that was unencumbered by having to talk about local teams and mine an hour of content out of three minutes that Dak Prescott gave a reporter after a game.
About a year ago, I asked three people in our industry if it was possible for a talent to be too smart for sports talk radio. They all had different opinions on the initial question, but all agreed that a station should view smart hosts as a strength not a weakness.
Today, I ask you a similar question. Can some hosts be too entertaining for sports talk radio?
No, right? That is probably your gut reaction and I don’t blame you. Look, I came from rock radio and can’t imagine going back to having conversations interrupted by having to play Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.” I mean, we’ve all heard the song before, right? No one is clamoring for it in a way that playing it would make any meaningful impact on the damn ratings or generate a single extra penny.
I know I’m not the only one that made that kind of jump. Others came from country or urban or CHR radio. We all made the move to sports because we realized our passions were different now than when we started in the business or maybe we just realized that we aged out of our being able to relate to a certain audience. Sports radio scratched an itch our former format couldn’t.
When I look at Ben & Skin or Josh Innes’s comments about why they made the move they did, one thing I see come up a lot is the idea of freedom. Do these guys still love sports and love talking about games and teams? Yeah, of course they do. The thing is though that talking about sports is only fun when there is something fun or interesting to talk about. In his new role, there will be no manager freaking out that Josh has been talking about burritos all morning and not about the backup left guard the Titans picked up for a conditional 6th round pick.
This isn’t a problem that our format alone faces. Talent need to feel free. There is nothing wrong with a challenge, but we hire talent because we trust them to make the best content choices and to get the most out of the biggest stories of the day. The second they start covering a story because they have to or are just checking boxes in terms of what stories make it to air, they are bound to start wondering if there are greener pastures elsewhere.
Sometimes we are going to lose really talented guys like Ben, Skin, and now Josh to another format or another field. That sucks, but this is a tough world. Everyone has to do what is right for them.
Maybe the right thing to do as a programmer is to have these conversations right out in the open. Are you bored with sports? Is watching this same team limp into the 6th seed of the playoffs every year just to get bounced by LeBron in 5 games killing what used to be fun for you? Do we need to inject some new life into this show? How can we do that?
No talent should be “too entertaining” for sports talk radio. Just like intelligence, if you have a guy or gal that is engaged by other things like Marvel or beer or working with their hands, you have to figure out how to make that work for the station.